A new defensive scheme will impact the Michigan Wolverines roster in 2021 as Mike Macdonald takes over calling plays. It will be a three-down lineman front with an edge-rusher (or two) in a two-point stance on the outside, labeled a linebacker by the team. Fitting into that fold is Braiden McGregor, who was recruited as a strong-side defensive end out of high school. Once the crown jewel of the defensive side of the 2020 class, McGregor will be looked at to produce in 2021.
The story so far
McGregor was debatably the top recruit out of Michigan in the 2020 class and had some major suitors. Michigan won his favor over Notre Dame, Ohio State, Florida, Alabama, Oregon, and others. The Port Huron Northern High School product played both tight end and defensive end in high school, showing his athleticism and giving him quality footwork. He was a man amongst boys at the high school level and recorded a career mark of 227 tackles at Port Huron North. This was the kind of stuff fans and teammates were accustomed to:
McGregor is flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after the fact, but my goodness what a tackle. pic.twitter.com/BOZKiGl15s— Nathaniel Bott (@Nathaniel_Bott) August 29, 2019
Just seven games into his senior season, McGregor went down with a knee injury that would require surgery and hinder his start as a Wolverine. At 6-foot-6, 260-pounds, McGregor was already at a really good size heading into college. Multi-year starter Aidan Hutchinson, an NFL-ready player, stands at 6-6, 269, for reference.
The knee injury and plenty of veteran talent on the edge last season kept McGregor off the field in 2020. He was redshirted in his first calendar year in Ann Arbor, but expectations remain very high for the prospect.
Outlook moving forward
McGregor was listed as one of the many former defensive ends, now labeled as linebackers in the new Macdonald system. Many assume that he could be a breakout candidate in 2021 after Kwity Paye and Luiji Vilain exit the ranks at the edge position in Ann Arbor.
Guys like David Ojabo, Jaylen Harrell, and Taylor Upshaw will compete for minutes with McGregor on the outside. I’d consider McGregor with the highest upside of the bunch, but there are still many factors that could keep him lower on the depth chart.
The main one is health and coming off of the knee injury. He will see his first live-action in two years this fall. His response could factor into his playing time for the rest of the season. The second is experience. Ojabo, Upshaw, and Harrell all saw playing time in some role last season. They may be favored early on in the season because of that.
McGregor will certainly be thrown into the rotation of rushers from the outside this season. The question of how early and how often will remain until we see snaps at the Big House this fall.